Our friend Kate Chapman just reminded us of a cocktail-and-snack-food pairing we came up for her a year or so ago, when we were all searching for ways to eat healthier, but still wanting to have a little fun. Kate, a Broadway musical actress, currently practicing her new vocation as a health coach, requested a low-calorie cocktail she could have anywhere.
This proved challenging. After all, “anywhere” implies anywhere that serves alcohol. What could we possibly come up with that would be easy enough for any bartender to make, but be full of remarkable flavor? One good enough for our beloved broadway belter?
Kate did give us a few parameters to keep us grounded. “I adore bubbles, but not too sweet,” was one of her earliest pronouncements, followed by “I love love LOVE chick peas.”
Andre Gide, the famed French novelist and activist, famously said that art thrives when working with constraints, and having Kate nudge us in a direction her taste buds were telling her to take made life so much easier in the test kitchen. We immediately thought champagne. Its bubbles, as well as its ubiquity, are legendary. And to accompany the champagne, we thought gin (what bar doesn’t have gin?) would be just the thing to make this baby shine like it was opening night.
The drink definitely needed more that a little gin and some fizz; it was screaming for a more pronounced flavor enhancer that would give the two spirits some sex appeal.
And that’s where we turned to fresh ginger. Talk about potency! It packs a punch in such small amounts that a quarter of a teaspoon is all that was needed to breathe some kapow into the cocktail, along with the same amount of low-glycemic-index maple syrup to add just a hint of sweetness.
But how could we guarantee that any bar Kate moseyed on up to had fresh ginger juice and maple syrup? That’s where a dropper comes into play. Pick one up at a container store and fill it with equal parts ginger juice and maple syrup. Just two squirts into your champagne flute will bring you low-cal high-flavor bliss. As for the name, Kate decided that Teeny-tini would fit the bill nicely. We couldn’t agree more.
With the cocktail now completed, it was time to turn our attention to the beans. Chick peas are packed full of protein. You see them offered as little bar snacks, baked to a delicate crunchiness and bathed in various seasonings. We decided after several attempts at finding the perfect pairing that cinnamon and cumin, blended with a little salt and grape-seed oil, brought out a balanced savoriness to the beans. When they came out of the oven smelling of toasted spices, we squirted some lime juice and dusted the chick peas with lime zest and more salt. One nibble confirmed what we already knew: These will pair remarkably with Kate’s cocktail.
The calorie count for this pairing is such that if you would like to indulge in more that one drink, two would not be sinful. (They rack up about 113 a pop, and the chick peas, about 80 calories a handful.)
(created by Cocktail Buzz for Kate Chapman)
1 ounce gin
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger juice*
1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
8 ounces champagne
Shake the first three ingredients in ice for 15 seconds. Strain into two champagne flutes. Top with 4 ounces champagne each.
On the go:
Mix quadruple (or more) the amount of ginger juice and maple syrup with a few drops of water and store in a glass dropper. When you are out and about, request champagne and 1/2 ounce gin (or a splash) from the bartender. Squirt one full stopper amount into the champagne and gin, and give it a little stir (you may have to request a stirrer from the bartender). Imbibe. Enjoy with chick pea snack.
* Ginger juice is easy to make if you have a ginger grater or a juicer. Just make sure to peel it first.
(created by Cocktail Buzz for Kate Chapman)
1 16-ounce can chick peas, rinsed and patted dry
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (Saigon cinnamon)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for finishing
1 lime (for zest, then juice)
Spread chick peas on a paper towel–covered rimmed baking sheet to dry (preferably for 60–90 minutes, but if you are in a rush, make sure to pat them dry thoroughly).
Preheat oven to 400ºF.
Mix oil, garlic, salt, and spices in a bowl. Add chick peas to bowl and stir, coating evenly. Spread the chick peas on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 30–35 minutes, stirring the chick peas, or shaking the pan, every ten minutes. The chick peas should be browned and crisp-looking. Remove from oven and top with a generous amount of lime zest and the juice from half the lime. Transfer to a serving bowl and a add a pinch of salt to taste. Mix and serve warm with a Teeny-tini. (If you are taking them on the go, allow them to cool completely and transfer to a sealable plastic bag.)
Note: Some chick peas will be crunchy, others may have a soft interior. We like the textural combination of the two.
Take some with you for an on-the-go protein boost.
photos © Steve Schul, Cocktail Buzz